Politics a great leveller
Amarinder Singh has a true blue royal lineage, but he was never officially anointed head of the erstwhile Patiala princely state. Yet, he has always been the ‘Maharaja’ to his sycophants and supporters. But, faced with a tough political battle in next one year, the Amritsar MP is trying hard to shed the royalty tag. Helping him in the image makeover is the celebrated poll strategist, Prashant Kishor who has rebranded Amarinder as ‘Punjab da Captain’. The aim is to connect Amarinder with aam aadmi and blunt the charge of being ‘inaccessible’. To this end, Amarinder kicked off the first edition of ‘Coffee with Captain’ – an event similar to Narendra Modi’s ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ that Kishor had crafted during the 2014 Lok Sabha poll. Next on the plan is to appoint ‘College Captains’ across Punjab who will work as the former CM’s ambassador on campuses. Kishor is trying to build a campaign where reference of Captain is not limited just to Amarinder Singh but the sharing of the title with students – about 500 in every city – make them a stakeholder. Second and third edition of the event will see him engaging with farmers and the media.
Punmedia — more loyal than the king
The Punjab public relations department has set the perfect example of being more loyal than the king. Its monthly magazine, Advance (published as Jagriti in Punjabi and Hindi), has broken all records of sycophancy. Run by former journalists employed by the state government, the magazine’s latest issue has more than a dozen pictures of rural development and panchayats minister Sikander Singh Maluka alone. But no one is feeling bad. Maluka, a “blue-eyed boy” of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal could do with all the publicity he can muster. His portfolio (education) was changed due to his alleged involvement in the textbook scam. Maluka’s video of slapping protesting teachers is among the first things that pop up when one googles his name. Sadly, even Punmedia, the government body that brings out the magazine, has not put the “Maluka edition” on the net to counter the adverse info shown by the search engine about the worthy minister.
AAP can wait
AAP leaders in Punjab are taking to Punjabi ways rather fast. An independent Sikh political leader from Mohali who was called for a “secret” meeting with AAP’s Punjab in-charge Sanjay Singh was in for what he described as “image shock”. To begin with two hurly burly lathaits (laathi-bearing bouncers) greeted him at the gate of a plush Sector-9 house in Chandigarh where Sanjay Singh stays during his visits to the city. And just when he thought that they were not too different from the Youth Akali Dal (YAD) boys, he noticed them chewing khaini (a form of tobacco mixed with lime and chewed in UP and some other states). Shocked that AAP is shouting from rooftops against Punjab leaders promoting drugs but has nothing different to show in practice, the leader had just entered the palatial house when he saw Sanjay Singh enjoying a game of snooker, complete with fawning bystanders. Why blame the royal Captain Amarinder Singh for indulging in such past-imes, he wondered. A brief meeting later, the Sikh gentleman said with folded hands that he is better off without joining any political party.
Book on heroes of Green Revolution
Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) is compiling a book on the heroes of Green Revolution in Punjab, including Sardara Singh Johl, GS Kalkat and Khem Singh Gill. The book, for which the university is taking services of agriculture experts, would document the success story of the state and the role of these heroes of the Green Revolution. The book eulogising these big names is coming at a time when agriculture is in crisis and farmers are committing suicide in the state. It is to be seen whether the book would suggest a way out of the present crisis or only talk about the past glory.
Punjab netas’ avian connect
Punjab has a flock of politicians named after birds. These netas, who belong to different parties, get trolled on social media or messaging apps due to this sometimes with their names - Hans, Ghuggi, Tota etc – finding mention in messages. One message showed birds on different branches of a tree, saying that even birds stand divided. Jathedar Tota Singh is in Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), singer Hans Raj Hans belongs to the Congress and comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) two months ago. Another joke mentioned that Hans is coming true to his name, acting as a migratory bird, when the singer had switched sides from the SAD to the Congress recently.
House visit triggers row
The house of Haryana finance minister Capt Abhimanyu was set afire by some miscreants during the Jat reservation stir six weeks ago. While the minister has said he would not take any compensation from the government, he is hurt over the loss of “priceless personal belongings”. Last week, five MPs of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and some Khap leaders visited the house. But the reaction of one of his cabinet colleagues triggered a new controversy. The irrepressible minister, who regularly takes digs at his colleagues, told reporters that the visiting MPs should have visited other victims of the quota stir too. While his intention behind making such a remark is not known, it surely set tongues wagging in the corridors of power.
Virk forgets PM’s pet scheme, hails Punjabis
Chief parliamentary secretary Bakshish Singh Virk, the only Sikh face in Haryana BJP, could not control his emotions while addressing a gathering of farmers at Kisan Sammelan at NDRI recently. The CPS slammed those who disturbed peace and harmony in the state during the recent quota stir, insisting that Punjabis are more hard working. “Karnal is the most peaceful and prosperous city of the state, not because of its location and fertile land, but because of hard work of Punjabis who had come here after Partition,” he said. The event was organised to create awareness among farmers about Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, but Virk did not say much about the scheme in his 45-minute speech. He kept the focus on the adverse impact of the reservation stir on the state.
Bali’s ‘humble’ ways
Himachal Pradesh transport minister GS Bali appears to have become extremely cautious about his utterances after rumours surfaced that the party leadership may appoint him deputy chief minister to avoid any “political crisis” in the state. Bali, who was interacting with reporters the other day, cleverly parried questions about the possibility of him getting the new responsibility. “I have no such desire,” he said. Asked about any threat to the state government, he said there was none and the entire state unit, including him, would stand by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. When a scribe interrupted and asked about chief minister Virbhadra Singh, Bali was quick to add: “Oh, he has been appointed CM by Soniaiji so I am with him also.”
BJP finds Kaul’s dinner invite tempting
The opposition BJP played spoilsport when chief minister Virbhadra Singh hosted a dinner for MLAs at the state-run Hotel Peterhoff the other day. Not a single member of the opposition party turned up at the official dinner. But they adopted a different strategy when health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, seen by many MLAs as a powerful contender for CM’s post, hosted an “AIDS Sensitisation Programme” at Peterhoff which was followed by dinner for legislators. Virbhadra attended the dinner with his cabinet colleagues and several MLAs. What surprised the CM was the presence of BJP legislators there.
Sudhir Sharma stumps rivals
Known for calm demeanour, urban development minister Sudhir Sharma showed his manoeuvring skills in the elections to 17-member Dharamshala municipal corporation. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was unable to match his clever moves. The minister stumped the rivals by not announcing the official candidates. The saffron brigade, led by former minister Kishan Kapoor, received a drubbing with the final tally of 2-14. The young minister made another clever move when he picked a candidate for the post of mayor from his arch-rival Kapoor’s village. Now this is what is known as taking the fight to someone’s doorstep.
(Contributed by Chitleen K Sethi, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Monica Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Neeraj Mohan, Naresh K Thakur and Gaurav Bisht)